Tag Archives: canadian content

The end of TV and the end of CanCon?

A few weeks ago I blogged about how the arrival of Joost could eventually require the rethinking of Canadian content rules (CanCon).

For those unfamiliar with CanCon, it is a policy, managed (I believe) by Heritage Canada and enforced by Canada’s broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), that establishes a system of quotas to ensure a certain amount of Canadian programming (e.g. music, TV) is broadcast within Canada.

In laymen terms: CanCon ensures that Canadian radio and TV stations broadcast at least some Canadian content. This can be good – making stars out of artists that might not have have received airplay – think The Bare Naked Ladies. And it can be bad, making (usually temporarily) stars out of artists that should never have received airplay – think Snow.

Well I’ve been allowed to serve as a Joost beta tester. After getting my email invitation last week I downloaded a copy.

In essence Joost is like You-Tube, but bigger, faster,  and sleeker. It’s as though Apple’s design team revamped You-Tube from the ground up and, while they were at it, grabbed themselves some partners to provide some more professional content.

But what makes Joost so interesting is how it’s organized. Joost feels like on-demand TV, with content divided into “categories” – such as “documentaries films” – and subdivided into “channels” – such as the “Indieflix channel” and the “Witness channel.” There is already a fair amount of content already available including a number of hour long (or longer) documentaries that are worth watching. (I can’t WAIT until Frontline has a channel up and running. I’d love to be able to watch any Frontline episode, anywhere, anytime, on a full screen.)

So what happens to Canadian content rules when anyone, anywhere can create and distribute content directly to my computer, and eventually, my TV? At this point, the only options left appear to be a) give up, or b) regulate content on the internet. Problematically, regulating internet content and access may be both impossible (even China struggles with this policy objective) and unpopular (I hope you’re as deeply uncomfortable as I am with the government regulating internet content).

The internet has (so far) enabled users to vastly expand the number of media sources available to them, and even create their own media. This has been a nightmare for “traditional media” such as newspapers and television stations, whose younger market demographic has significantly eroded. As a result, these same forces are eroding the government’s capacity to control what Canadians watch.

Which brings us back to option (a). At worst, CanCon is going the way of the Dodo – it will be too difficult to implement and maintain. Indeed a crisis in cultural policy may be looming. On the bright side however, the internet enables ordinary Canadians to create their own media (blogs, podcasts and now even videos) and distribute it over the internet, across the country and around the world. This is a better outcome than CanCon – which essential supports large, established media conglomerates who do Canadian content out of necessity, not passion – could ever have hoped for. Ordinary canadians may now be in the driver seat in creating content. That is a good outcome. Let’s hope any policy that replaces CanCon bears this in mind.

Google on Public Policy

I should have known it existed, but floating through delicious I just uncovered that Google has a public policy blog.

Google Public Policy Blog


After a quick perusal it seems the blog is partly about the interface between technology and public policy (making me their much, much, much smaller neighbour) and partly about Google’s efforts to lobby for policies that are in its (and so far, the publics’) interests.

For example, the blog tracks Google’s efforts to fight “censorship” which it defines VERY broadly. This is of concern to Google because, as the blog’s authors point out…

“…to industries that depend upon free flows of information to deliver their services across borders, censorship is a fundamental barrier to trade. For Google, it is fair to say that censorship constitutes the single greatest trade barrier we currently face.”

Of course, under this definition, the Canadian content rules (Cancon) may constitute censorship – so Google may already have a few enemies north of the border. Of course, it hardly matters. In a world of online media, infinite websites, and delivery mechanisms like Joost, CanCon rules are probably among the regulatory walking dead. How will regulating content on television and radio matter when I’ll be getting my content via the internet?

Speaking of censoring the internet. The blog also documents Google’s participation in another important fight, the battle over net neutrality. While I already knew Google’s position on this issue, it was interesting to hear their thoughts directly. And hey, when you are taking on the entire cable and telecommunication industry, it is nice to know that at least one multi-billion dollar company is in your corner.

It’s made me wonder… will Google Canada take up arms in pursuit of net neutrality here at home? Someone has to take on Rogers and Bell as they attempt to control and shape our internet experience. Will Google Canada be as active and its parent company?